According to The Athletic, DeMarre Carroll of the Brooklyn Nets would fill a need for the Houston Rockets. But the proposed return would be bad for the Nets.
Carroll was one of eight players mentioned as a possible fit with the Rockets in a column by Jordan Brenner of The Athletic (subscription required) to address Houston’s problems with wing defense.
The Rockets have fallen to 28th in the NBA in defensive efficiency this season at 112.4 points per 100 possessions after ranking seventh a season ago at 105.6.
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That was before Houston general manager Daryl Morey decided to let premier 3-and-D wings Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute walk as free agents and attempted to replace them with deep-2-and-no-D Carmelo Anthony.
So it’s not a surprise the Rockets might be looking to fix that problem and Carroll would certainly be a viable candidate.
He had his best game of the season for the Nets on Friday, posting season-highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds and shooting 7-for-10 while knocking down 4-of-6 from deep.
Carroll missed the first 11 games of the season with a right ankle injury and has been slow to regain his shooting touch. Even after Friday’s outburst, he’s shooting just 37.2 percent overall this season and 36.6 percent from long range.
Carroll, in his 10th season, is in the final year of the four-year, $60 million deal he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Toronto Raptors in 2015 and is a $15.4 million salary cap hit for this season.
That would require a lot of salary coming back to Brooklyn because both the Rockets and Nets are over the cap, so neither team could take back more than 120 percent of the salaries they send out.
Houston’s best available trade piece — at least in the interest of not taking away depth when they are trying to add more — is the contract of Brandon Knight, the erstwhile combo guard who hasn’t played in an NBA game since Feb. 15, 2017, because of knee problems.
Knight is on the books this season for roughly $14.6 million, so he would be a match in a potential deal for Carroll.
But here’s the catch. Knight — still sidelined as he recovers from surgery and a subsequent infection in the surgically repaired left knee — also has $15.6 million due in 2019-20.
That’s a lot of cap space to allocate for damaged goods, particularly when Brooklyn wants to position itself as a free-agent player next summer.
The good news for Knight at least is that on Friday he played his first competitive game in almost two years, logging 22 minutes on a rehabilitation assignment with the Rio Grand Valley Vipers of the NBA G League.
He scored 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting and was 3-of-10 from 3-point range to go with five assists in 22 minutes. So, yeah, some rust.
But given that the Rockets have few young assets to package with Knight other than draft picks that won’t be that valuable if they remain a contender in the Western Conference, there may not be enough Splenda in Texas to sweeten that deal enough to make it palatable for the Nets.
Not at the cost of more than 30 percent of the cap space Brooklyn has created to pursue players who are actually healthy enough to play.